A Visit to My Home Church in Sweden
I always look forward to visiting my home church in Sweden, the Hallebërg Church in the small seaside town of Ljungskile. It’s only a one hour walk from the Youth With A Mission base, so Ellen and I enjoy walking to the town each day when we come here to teach.
The 180-200 member church is like an oasis in the midst of an increasingly spiritually dry land. Sunday morning worship begins at 10 am, but most members come about 9:15 to sit in the sanctuary and pray, sometimes singing quietly as they lift up their hearts to praise the Lord in anticipation of the service of worship. Little children fill up the first few pews, because they are the ones who get to choose some of the songs as the service begins. Last Sunday, after the children left for their own time of study and worship, the youth choir came up to sing. They sang in Swedish, then in English, once again in the Swedish language. Their worship was pure, their hearts committed to the Lord as they sang.
This time I had a special time of fellowship and teaching with the young people. On Wednesday night, nearly 40 young people aged 13 to 19 met for two and a half hours to worship, study, pray and enjoy good food. The adult leading the meeting reminded me that young people of this church have met every Wednesday night for the last 40 years! One of the leaders, a school teacher in his mid 40’s, told me that he himself grew up, accepted the Lord, and was nourished in this same youth group when he was a young boy.
My mind went back to my original home church, Plaza Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC, where we also met every Sunday night in much the same way as these young Swedish students meet today. This was where our faith was formed, our commitment to the Lord made firm, and where we learned the true meaning of Christian community – koinonia. We learned to develop responsible relationships, to become accountable to one another, to become a sharing community, and to become partners with Christ to fulfill His Great Commission.
I told my Swedish friend that my American home church also had a tradition similar to his, and that even now, 60+ years later, many of our original members continue to gather together every three or four years to “go back over the Jordan” to remember and re-experience our roots and to recommit to our communal calling. I continue to pray God’s blessings on A.T. and Doris Brown, my leaders when I was in high school, as well as to give thanks for the many godly leaders who nurtured me but who have now gone to be with the Lord.
After the youth had sung in the Hallebërg Church last Sunday, I was invited to preach. This is a special privilege because this is my home church. They have no paid pastor, by preference not necessity, so the five or six elders take turns preaching, except when a visiting pastor may be invited.
After the sermon the whole congregation spends another time in prayer, responding to God’s Word, or interceding for missionaries the church has sent out or for the youth of Sweden.
After the worship ends, the whole congregation together with visitors go to the adjoining dining room for fika, which is a Swedish custom of enjoying fellowship with coffee or tea and a bullar, a delicious not-too-sweet cinnamon bun. Swedish people keep this custom of fika every day, for about 30 minutes, coming together from whatever work they may be doing for a time of sharing and fellowship. They do not talk about their work, they simply relax together. (Statistics show that productivity in business actually increases when workers enjoy daily fika! Perhaps Americans should try this.)
You may ask, why would this be my home church (in addition to my original home church, Plaza Presbyterian; or my Korean home church, Youngnak Church)? Because I have found a community of kindred spirits, a people who love the Lord and are fully committed to serving Him in a society where it is becoming increasingly difficult to witness to Christ, a church that invests heavily in its youth and young adults and disciples them to become godly, servant leaders, a kind of Christian counter-culture in the world where anti-God forces are increasing at an alarming rate. Their language is Swedish, mine English, but love, prayer and praise erase the language barrier. My home church is a faithful Church. Their lamps continue to burn brightly. They are a people of prayer, a people of the Word, a missionary community. Who would not want a “home church” like this?
Please visit my home church when you come to Sweden. You will always be welcome, and you may also ask to become an “adopted” member of this vibrant community of Christians.